With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography Aug07

With Great Offense Comes Great Responsibility: Spider-Man and Pornography...

“I’m offended.” This phrase has become emotionally laden, and all too often used in North American culture to gain unearned power over whatever or whomever has caused the “offense.” But if I’m offended by someone, does that give me special rights? If anything, being offended confers responsibility: responsibility to address the source of offense, to explain my point of view, and, perhaps most importantly, to listen to the other perspective. That’s a lot of work, however; no wonder the path of least resistance leads to Internet trolling and flaming tweets instead. So, here am I; I’m offended. I saw Spider-Man: Homecoming in theaters and loved its portrayal of a kid struggling to understand what it means to be a hero. The next day, I read a review by Ben Kayser, Managing Editor of Movieguide, the self-described “Family Guide to Movies and Entertainment,” which not only described the film as poorly written and badly directed, but also took issue with a single line that the headline claimed “might have ruined” the entire film. Kayser took offense at the line “I was… looking at… porn?” Peter Parker’s friend Ned says this during the climactic battle when he’s providing logistical support in the school’s computer lab. Doing his best to assist his buddy as “the guy in the chair,” Ned gets busted by a teacher who demands to know what Ned is doing. Not wanting to betray Peter’s secret identity, Ned offers this plausible but shameful excuse.  Kayser found this “irresponsible and frustrating,” believing the line to be an attempt to render porn consumption “normal and acceptable.” I stewed over this for a couple of days before I finally worked out why I was irked: Kayser was offended.  Reading his article and review, I realized that he was offended that Spider-Man: Homecoming didn’t measure up to his values. This is illogical because the only way to ensure that any artistic endeavour measures up to your values is to produce it yourself, by yourself. As any artist will attest, the moment another person becomes involved in your project, compromise begins. I don’t agree with Kayser that people of faith have to compromise anything in watching this film. Despite Kayser’s offense, porn consumption is normal, or at least it has become so in our society. Most famously, Professor Simon Louis Lajeunesse of the University of Montreal had to restructure his  study comparing men who consumed porn with those who hadn’t because he couldn’t find any control subject in their twenties who had never consumed porn. On this point, I agree with Kayser: this is not acceptable, for a variety of reasons. I don’t agree, however, that it’s a cause for hand-wringing and finger-pointing, or throwing rotten tomatoes at an amazing film. I suggest, rather, that this is an opportunity, a chance to have a discussion. Porn users are not a proud bunch. We might be willing to acknowledge and detail usage in an anonymous Internet survey, but none of us are going to list it as an accomplishment on our curriculum vitae. There won’t be any “Porn Pride Parades” coming to your community anytime soon. You might know someone who is upfront and casual about using porn, but for the rest of us, it’s a source of shame and we are only as healthy as our darkest secrets. If nothing else, Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. I took my eleven-year-old son to this movie, and I will be using this moment to have a frank and open discussion with him about pornography; where Kayser takes offense, I see opportunity. My son wants to be like me; I want him to be better. Ned’s line is an opportunity to shine some light on a dark truth. Kayser also doesn’t seem to understand that acknowledging that something is occurring is not the same thing as condoning it. If...

Losing Your Self-Worth to a Suit Jul17

Losing Your Self-Worth to a Suit...

When Tony Stark gives Peter Parker an upgraded suit and recruits him for the Avengers’ Civil War, Peter is ecstatic, thinking he’s about to become a member of the team. But Tony has other plans. Although he lets Peter keep the suit, Tony sends Peter back to his old, ordinary life in Queens, telling the super-teen that he’ll call him when there’s a new mission. That call never comes, and Peter grows increasingly frustrated. Isn’t the guy who snatched Captain America’s shield ready for more challenging tasks than giving directions to old ladies? “Can’t you just be a friendly, neighbourhood Spider-Man?” Tony suggests when Peter seeks out more dangerous adventures. But in the course of protecting his neighbourhood, Peter finds a gang of arms dealers selling weapons enhanced with remnant Chitauri parts, leftover Ultron tech, and other exotic wreckage. Although he tells Tony about the threat, Peter is not content to sit on the sidelines and decides to investigate for himself. Peter is everything you’d expect from a teenaged superhero—he’s gifted, but also clumsy, inexperienced, and still learning that actions have consequences. On top of that, he’s enthralled with his new suit. Thinking the suit holds the key to being a better superhero, Peter disables the “Training Wheels Protocol” Tony added to the software, and suddenly he’s got a mind-blowing amount of tech at his disposal (though he has no idea how to use it). Wanting to be worthy of the Avengers, Peter relied on his suit to make him a hero and ended up losing confidence in himself. When I thought about Peter’s attachment to his suit, I realized that most people rely on some kind of “super-suit” to create a “better” version of themselves, to function in areas where they feel deficient....

Swinging a mile in Spider-Man’s tights Feb02

Swinging a mile in Spider-Man’s tights...

“With great power comes great responsibility.” This six-word sentence, said first in Amazing Fantasy #15 (August 1962) by Ben Parker to a young Peter Parker, has become one of the most iconic sentences in all of comic book history. This statement condenses Marvel’s purest sense of heroism into a balanced and understandable concept: those of us who have the ability to do good are charged with the duty to do so. Peter Parker is the hero who most comic fans wish they could be. Wolverine is indestructible, but lonely. The Hulk is the ultimate power fantasy, but lacks self-control. Iron Man may be a billionaire genius playboy philanthropist, but he’s not exactly well adjusted. Marvel is no stranger to heroes with grey-area morality.Kids grow up pretending to shoot webs from their wrists and swing from lampshades because something about Peter Parker and Spider-Man has resonated with them for over 50 years. In 2012, Marvel shook things up by ending 50 years of Amazing Spider-Man and starting up Superior Spider-Man to run in its place, with a surprising twist. Otto Octavius has swapped his mind with Peter Parker’s and left Peter to die in his own deteriorating body. For two years, Otto becomes Spider-Man. Having inherited all of Peter’s memories, he believes that, unshackled by Peter’s concrete morality, he can be a better hero, and—you guessed it—a superior Spider-Man. To New York City, Spider-Man is still Spider-Man—he’s still spinning webs of any size and catching thieves just like flies. The first time anyone notices something is off is when Superior Spider-Man corners a murderous villain named Massacre. Spider-Man turns Massacre’s weapon against him and publicly executes him by shooting him in the head. Though Massacre deserved to pay for his crimes, this is not something...